Stefanie Hartman In The Press

Warning for e-Books on Amazon

Posted on 04 November 2011 by Stefanie

Just read this today and wanted to pass it onto you.  Here’s a warning for self-published authors on Amazon, that’s including e-books.

[The article below was written by Laura Hazard]

Amazon’s self-publishing platform, Kindle Direct Publishing, has a rule: If you use it to publish a book, and then sell that same book on another site at a lower price, KDP retains the right to drop the price of your book in the Kindle Store too. Whether that’s fair or not, it’s in the KDP Terms and Conditions those users agree to. But what happens if Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) makes a mistake and gives away over 6,000 copies of your book for free? One self-published author found out, in a saga that is only today nearing conclusion.

James Crawford self-published his zombie novel, Blood Soaked and Contagious, this year and sold it for $5.99 in the Kindle Store and in other e-bookstores. He also posted a free, three-chapter sample of the book in the Nook Store. Amazon—rather, Amazon’s algorithm, presumably—found that free sample in the Nook store and then marked down the full-length version of the book in the Kindle Store to $0.

“They found something that is quite similar, asked no questions, and used their power to discount my novel 100%,” Crawford wrote on October 7. Crawford then began battling with KDP’s outsourced customer service, and on October 20 Amazon finally fixed the pricing error and started actually charging for the book again. By that point, it had been downloaded for free 6,116 times. And Amazon refused to pay royalties on any of the copies it gave away for free. Crawford started a little social media campaign, his story started getting picked up and yesterday, almost a month after the saga began, a Kindle Direct Publishing rep called Crawford and told him that while he won’t be getting any money, Amazon will “research the entire chain of events and will get back to you in a day or two.” Also:

They stand by the terms of the contract (i.e. no compensation for their mistake)
They are grateful for my help as a test/training case for customer service
They have never seen an issue quite like this one before
My concerns were not handled promptly enough
My issue was not dealt with in an empathetic manner
Gosh, we really appreciate you talking to us about this

How much money did Crawford lose? That’s a little unclear. He sells his book for $5.99 and receives a royalty of 35 percent from Amazon on each copy sold. (Amazon also offers a 70 percent royalty option for books over $2.99 and I’m a bit unclear on why Crawford selected the lower royalty.)  If he’d sold 6,116 copies at that price, he’d net $12,822.19. But people are much more likely to download a book if it’s free, so you can’t say for sure that Crawford actually lost nearly $13,000. While some commenter’s suggested that Crawford take legal action against Amazon, others recommended that he simply enjoy the free publicity and use it to build up his fan base.

A couple things are clear here: 1) Amazon needs to not drop book prices by mistake, and self-published authors need to watch out for that happening; 2) Kindle Direct Publishing’s customer service should get better and faster about responding to these types of issues, especially since Amazon gets a cut of these authors’ sales (i.e., they’re not just “customers”), and judging by their response to Crawford, it sounds as if they will improve at this; 3) Giving away a book or an excerpt of a book for free is a really good promotional tactic—which is exactly why Crawford tried it in the Nook Store in the first place.

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Warning for e Books on Amazon

4 Comments For This Post

  1. Dave Erhard Says:

    This just shows the lack of decency, excellence, and integrity of companies such as Amazon.com. Everything is about the money at the cost of decency and damn the author who is struggling to make a living. Should we be surprised by the Wall Street Prostests (even though the majority of protestors themselves likely are not of great integrity)?

    You can read the blog entry about the “Kindle Swindle” and how Amazon has handled copyright violation of ebooks on its Kindle platform.

    http://blog.bookmarket.com/2010/05/amazon-kindle-swindle-authors-people.html

    Try to read the comment by Ernie Zelinski and how Amazon.com did not take the pirated material off the customers’ Kindles. In other words, Amazon chose to keep the money that it made off pirated material that violated his copyright.

    Should this be a reason to admire Jeff Bezos? I would say definitely not. Any executive with integrity, class, and excellence would rectify the problem immediately regardless of how much it cost his company.

  2. RW Says:

    Thank you. This is all very helpful!

  3. JT Says:

    I think small businesses all need to get together and sue Amazon. They are wreaking havoc in the industry and they’re going to put a lot of us out of business.

  4. EGP Says:

    Hello Stephanie,

    Thanks so much for keeping us all posted. There is so much to navigate through in this digital age as we all strive to build what we`re passionate about.

    take care

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